(WASHINGTON) — This story is part of ABC News’ series “Democracy in Peril,” which examines the inflection point the country finds itself at after the Jan. 6 attacks and ahead of the 2022 election.
The House Jan. 6 hearings this summer highlighted the pressure placed on officials across the country to overturn the 2020 presidential election — and how close some of Donald Trump’s demands came to being a reality.
Trump, the committee has already said, was directly involved in trying to have election workers and lawmakers both at the federal and local level declare him the winner of the race rather than Joe Biden.
As the committee detailed in its summer hearings, that effort was ultimately unsuccessful in large part thanks to a handful of people who resisted Trump’s demands despite the consequences that followed.
“They represent the backbone of our democracy at its most important moments: when the citizens cast their votes and when those votes are counted,” Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said during a hearing in which some of those people testified live.
The officials — heavily criticized by Trump in social media posts or in statements for opposing him — have since recounted the harassment they said they and their family members faced. Election antagonism didn’t end after 2020: ABC News previously reported that at least nine states have experienced election staff departures or retirements prompted in part by harassment, threats and misinformation, officials and experts said.
Some leading Republicans who chose to support the 2020 election result have said it was their moral and legal duty, regardless of politics.
Here are some of the key officials, according to the Jan. 6 committee, who were pressured by Trump.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Pence, Trump’s second-in-command, was hailed by the committee at its summer hearings for rejecting Trump’s entreaty to unilaterally reject Biden electors at the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Thanks in part to Mike Pence, our democracy withstood Donald Trump’s scheme and the violence of Jan. 6,” Chairman Thompson said during one of the hearings.
Trump and Pence had a phone call just hours before the joint congressional session began, in what onlookers described as a “heated” conversation. As the Capitol attack unfolded and the mob threatened to kill the vice president, Pence was forced to hide in an underground location while Trump continued to criticize him on social media. Pence resumed the certification of Biden’s victory in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 2021.
“President Trump is wrong. … I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence said at a speech earlier this year. “The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. And frankly there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was one of the most pressured local officials, as Trump fixated on his loss in the Peach State (the first time a Republican presidential nominee was defeated there in 28 years).
A now-infamous phone call between Raffensperger and Trump revealed the former president asked him to “find” 11,780 votes in Georgia — just one vote over the margin by which he trailed Biden. At one point on the call, Trump suggested to Raffensperger that his inaction could mean he was criminally liable, but Raffensperger denied Trump’s request and his false assertions including his claim that thousands of dead people voted in the election.
Raffensperger told the Jan. 6 committee in live testimony that his wife received sexually threatening texts and his daughter-in-law had her home broken into. Raffensperger went on to face a Trump-backed primary challenger but won.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers
Bowers, then the top Republican in the Arizona State House of Representatives, became emotional as he described to the committee the toll of being asked to violate his oath of office. Trump asked Bowers to help with a plan to replace the state’s electors committed to Biden during a phone call weeks after Trump lost the 2020 election. Bowers insisted on seeing evidence of voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team was never able to produce.
Speaking to ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Bowers said in a subsequent interview that some Arizonians thanked him for his testimony before the committee but others deemed him a “traitor.” When asked by Karl if he ever considered going along with Trump’s plan, Bowers — who went on to lose his next election against a Trump-endorsed Republican — said: “The idea of throwing out the election of the president is like, okay, so what part of Jupiter do I get to land on and colonize?”
Former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt
Al Schmidt, the only Republican on the city’s election board during the 2020 election, was the subject of a social media post by Trump in which Trump alleged Schmidt “refuses to look at a mountain of corruption dishonesty.”
Schmidt told the Jan. 6 panel that they investigated every allegation no matter how “fantastical” or “absurd.”
After that Trump tweet, Schmidt said the threats against him “became much more specific, much more graphic, and included not just me by name but included members of my family by name, their ages, our address, pictures of our home.” Schmidt resigned from his position in late November 2021.
Richard Donoghue, Jeff Rosen, Steven Engel
These three former Justice Department officials described the many efforts by Trump to change the results — from suggesting the agency seize voting machines or file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court to sending letters to state legislatures furthering baseless claims of fraud.
“I will say that the Justice Department declined all of those requests that I was just referencing,” Rosen told the committee, “because we did not think that they were appropriate based on the facts and the law as we understood them.”
When Trump tried to appoint a less qualified but more loyal official to attorney general when his demands weren’t met, Donoghue said he told Trump that assistant attorney generals across the country would resign “en masse.”
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